Inspector general calls security cameras at LAPD stations 'inadequate'

Inspector general calls security cameras at LAPD stations 'inadequate'
An LAPD officer attaches red tape to the railings at the entrance of the West Traffic Bureau at 4849 Venice Blvd. after a shooting in April. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Security cameras at Los Angeles police stations are inadequate, with many offering only partial or no view of holding cells or other key areas -- shortcomings illustrated by the cameras' failure to completely capture a gunman's April rampage inside the West Traffic Bureau, according to an inspector general's report released Monday.

Inspector Gen. Alex Bustamante will present the report to the Police Commission on Tuesday. In it, he paints a picture of a department whose security cameras inside its 21 stations are poorly maintained, with many not working at all.


The report notes that the department has not had budget allocations in recent years for station camera upgrades, doesn't retain the recordings and has failed to develop policies to ensure evidence is maintained.

"The security cameras at the geographic stations have been a concern for the department for several years. Unfortunately with the city's financial crisis the funding has not been available," said Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur in a statement. "The department sees this as a priority and has convened a working group to address all of the recommendations made by the inspector general."

The report on the station cameras comes as questions are being raised about the slow pace of getting dashboard cameras into LAPD cruisers. 

Cars in only one of the LAPD's four bureaus have the technology. There are no cameras in police cars used to patrol the neighborhood where Ezell Ford was shot and killed by police Aug. 11, a shooting that has prompted protests and calls for an outside investigation.

But Bustamante wrote that even a shooting inside a station was not properly captured on camera. He wrote that the lack of video of a shooting inside the West Traffic Division lobby that left a gunman dead and an officer injured April 10 hampered an investigation into the incident.
That incident and a failure to capture an inmate's medical emergency inside a Southwest station cell prompted Bustamante to audit the department's cameras. The inmate later died. 

Station cameras are not routinely inspected to ensure they are working, Bustamante's report states, and officers often discover that the cameras are down only when video footage is requested.

Bustamante noted that not only are the station cameras inadequately placed and maintained, but no clear policies govern their operation.

The camera systems have little security, and many stations fail to restrict access to operator workstations and video archives, the report states. Log-in and password information are easily accessible.

Department officials told Bustamante that they tried to get funding in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 budgets for video camera upgrades, but the funds were allocated elsewhere.

The inspector general is calling for cameras to be placed in any area where detainees are processed, such as booking stalls and holding cells.

In addition, the report calls for:

  • Station supervisors to be trained in how to use the cameras and retrieve video records;
  • A policy to be put in place to require station personnel to regularly check to verify that the cameras are working;
  • The LAPD to make funding the camera system a priority in next year's budget.

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